If you’re a fan of dramas that are high on emotions, then you shouldn’t miss Chinese soap operas. They have everything that you’d expect from a melo – love, hate, revenge, betrayal, tragedy, and much more. Chinese dramas are known for their beautiful cinematography, talented actors, and gripping storylines.
But what makes Chinese soaps stand out from others is the way they handle the themes of love and jealousy. These two emotions are like the bread and butter of Chinese dramas. Every story has a love triangle, a bitter ex-lover, or a jealous rival. And it’s not just the characters who are jealous, but the audience too. That’s because these dramas are so good at making you feel invested in the characters’ lives.
So, let’s dive into the world of Chinese soaps and explore the double dose of drama that is love and jealousy.
The Roots of Love and Jealousy in Chinese Culture
To understand why love and jealousy are such prominent themes in Chinese soap operas, we need to delve into Chinese culture. In China, love has always been viewed as a complicated emotion that brings both joy and pain. The Chinese language even has a specific word for this – ‘Aiqing,’ which translates to the intertwining of love and hate.
Moreover, in traditional Chinese society, jealousy was seen as a natural emotion that everyone felt at some point. This stemmed from the belief that jealousy was a sign of passion and love. In Chinese literature, it’s not uncommon to see love stories that involve jealousy and rivalry.
So, it’s no surprise that these cultural values have seeped into Chinese dramas as well.
A Love Triangle
When it comes to Chinese dramas, love triangles are a dime a dozen. In fact, sometimes it seems like every character is involved in one. But what makes them so intriguing is the way they’re executed. A love triangle is not just about choosing between two people. It’s about making a choice between two different kinds of love.
For instance, in the popular drama ‘Eternal Love,’ the protagonist Bai Qian is torn between the love of two men – Ye Hua and Mo Yuan. Ye Hua is the crown prince of the heavens and Mo Yuan is the god of war. Both of them offer Bai Qian different kinds of love. Ye Hua is charming, passionate, and impulsive, while Mo Yuan is calm, wise, and selfless.
As a viewer, you get invested in the characters’ lives and can understand why Bai Qian is torn between the two.
A Jealous Rival
You can’t have a love triangle without a jealous rival. Chinese dramas take this trope to a whole new level. A jealous rival is not just someone who wants what the protagonist has, but also someone who is willing to go to great lengths to get it. This usually involves scheming, manipulating, and even resorting to violence.
Take the drama ‘Ashes of Love’ as an example. The protagonist, Jin Mi, is a flower goddess who falls in love with the fire god, Xufeng. However, Xufeng’s ex-lover, Princess Liuying, is jealous of their relationship and does everything in her power to break them apart. She even goes as far as to turn Xufeng into a puppet.
These kinds of villains add an extra layer of excitement to the story and make you root for the protagonist even more.
In Chinese culture, there’s another aspect to love that’s often explored in dramas – the idea of forbidden love. Forbidden love is not just about societal barriers. It’s also about the heart-wrenching pain of having to choose between love and duty.
In the drama ‘Scarlet Heart,’ the protagonist, Zhang Xiaowen, is a modern-day girl who gets sent back in time to the Qing dynasty. There, she falls in love with the eighth prince, Yinxiang, who is already engaged to someone else. Throughout the drama, their love is constantly thwarted by political intrigue and familial obligations.
The audience feels the couple’s pain and can’t help but root for them to overcome the obstacles in their way.
Beyond Love Triangles and Jealous Rivals
While love triangles and jealous rivals are the most prominent themes in Chinese dramas, there are other ways that love and jealousy are explored in these shows. Here are a few examples:
A Love That Transcends Time
In the drama ‘Love and Destiny,’ the protagonist, Ni Man Tian, is a demon princess who falls in love with a human god, Lian Song. However, their love is not just hindered by their different backgrounds, but also by time itself. Lian Song is cursed to die every 60 years, and Ni Man Tian has to patiently wait for his reincarnation.
The Jealousy of a Sister
In ‘The Story of Yanxi Palace,’ a historical drama set in the Qing dynasty, the protagonist Wei Yingluo becomes a concubine in the palace. However, she has to fend off the jealousy of the emperor’s other wives, especially that of his sister, Fucha Rongyin. Fucha Rongyin is jealous of Wei Yingluo’s relationship with the emperor and tries to get her out of the way.
A Love That Overcomes Death
In ‘Ten Miles of Peach Blossoms,’ the protagonist Bai Qian falls in love with Ye Hua, the crown prince of the heavens. However, their love is cut short when Ye Hua sacrifices himself to save Bai Qian. In the sequel, ‘Three Lives, Three Worlds, The Pillow Book,’ the couple is reincarnated and has to find each other again.
The Impact of Chinese Soaps on Pop Culture
Chinese dramas have been growing in popularity outside of China in recent years. Their fans are not just limited to the Chinese diaspora, but also include people from all over the world. This can be attributed to the rise of streaming platforms that make these shows easily accessible.
Moreover, Chinese dramas have had a significant impact on pop culture, especially in Asia. K-Dramas and J-Dramas are not the only shows that are popular in the region anymore. Chinese dramas have also made their mark.
In fact, the popularity of Chinese dramas has led to an increase in tourism to China. Fans often visit the locations where their favorite dramas were filmed. For example, the city of Hengdian in Zhejiang province, also known as the ‘Chinese Hollywood,’ has become a popular tourist destination because it’s the location for many Chinese dramas and movies.
Top Chinese Dramas to Watch
If you’re new to Chinese dramas, here are some must-watch shows that capture the essence of double the drama – love and jealousy.
1. Eternal Love
This period drama is a classic example of a love triangle with fantasy elements. It stars Yang Mi and Mark Chao and has gained a huge following all over the world.
2. Nirvana in Fire
This historical drama is known for its intricate plot and complex characters. It stars Hu Ge and has been praised for its excellent cinematography.
3. Ashes of Love
A romantic fantasy drama that stars Yang Zi and Deng Lun. It has a unique world-building and a compelling love story.
4. The Untamed
This fantasy drama is based on the novel ‘Mo Dao Zu Shi.’ It has a loyal fan following and stars Xiao Zhan and Wang Yibo.
5. The Story of Minglan
A historical drama that centers around the life of Minglan, a noblewoman during the Song dynasty. The show has received critical acclaim and stars Zhao Liying.
A Table to Help You Choose Your Next Drama
|Title||Genre||Main Cast||Available Platforms|
|Eternal Love||Romantic Fantasy||Yang Mi, Mark Chao||Netflix, Viki|
|Nirvana in Fire||Historical, Thriller||Hu Ge, Liu Tao||Viki, YouTube|
|Ashes of Love||Romantic Fantasy||Yang Zi, Deng Lun||Netflix, Viki|
|The Untamed||Romantic Fantasy||Xiao Zhan, Wang Yibo||Netflix, Viki|
|The Story of Minglan||Historical||Zhao Liying, Feng Shaofeng||Viki|
Love and jealousy are not just emotions that are explored in Chinese dramas. They’re a reflection of Chinese culture and values. Chinese dramas have taken these themes to new heights and have churned out some of the most gripping shows of recent times. Whether it’s a love triangle or a jealous rival, these dramas know how to make you feel invested in the characters’ lives. So, the next time you’re looking for some double the drama, give Chinese soaps a chance.